The Hebei Shijiazhuang based company is popular for its yogurt branded Jianchun (简醇) and its range of infant formula in China. It is also on a mission to grow its healthy ageing product range.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, Celia Ning, director at Junlebao Dairy Group’s Nutrition Research Institute, outlined the reasons and key initiatives that the company would undertake as part of the strategy announced in late February.
One of the key purposes, said Ning, was to invest in and strengthen the science of its products.
“We are launching this strategy now because we feel that we have hit a new milestone where we need to invest and strengthen the science of our products.
“It's not like we haven't done it before, but as a new milestone, we will do more science, clinical studies,” she said.
For example, in the area of infant nutrition, the company will delve into early science, such as the study of human breast milk components, and work with universities to discover new components from mother’s breastmilk.
Some of the components that the firm will study include lactoferrin, osteopontin, and human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) as well as changes in the nutritional content of mother’s milk during the breastfeeding period.
This also means that the firm will move away from using highly popular ingredients to discover the next ground-breaking ingredient and use it in its products.
“We will do literature search, work with suppliers to drive the early science, unlike in the past where certain functional ingredients are used because they are popular in the market.
“Now, we are trying to start at the beginning. We will start to research on mother's milk, collect the mother's milk, analyse and even work with universities to understand, to dig deep into the new components that could be found from mother's milk.”
Findings from the research will then be pushed through to commercial use and this will involve working with the ingredient suppliers.
“We don't want to do 'me too' [formulations] but we want to be in the position whereby if we found something good from the mother's milk, and if we need to push for its commercial use, we will push the suppliers to speed up [the R&D and commercialisation] so as to improve the benefits of infant formulas,” she said.
Aside from infant nutrition, more research will also be conducted on nutrition for middle-aged and older consumers, such as conducting clinical trials on the firm’s product formulation.
The crux is in improving the quality and offering health benefits unique to the products.
“This is to give more confidence to our products and also our CEO believes we need to launch products that are of better quality, safety, and our formulations would need to have a point of differentiation, meaning benefits that are different from other brands.
“Once we have these two things then we can confidently invest and push the products out, let everybody know about it, so that the products can go far and really benefit the society.
“We are not interested in pushing wanghong (网红) or baokuan(爆款) products,” she said, referring to products that are hyped-up because of social media influence.
Right from the grass and embryo
The strategy would not only focus on scientific research, but also improving how the products could be made right from the start, such as cow breeding and the types of grass that they feed on.
So far, the firm has invested RMB$8bn (US$1.15bn) in its farmland business.
With the farms nearby the manufacturing facility, Ning said the firm was able to complete the process of milking to powder canning within two hours, in turn preserving the freshness of the products.
In 2021, the company also set up a company known as Pinyuan (品元) that focuses on selecting the best quality bulls for breeding. It has also established an embryonic lab for breeding the best quality bulls and cows.
Ning said these better-quality cows could produce more volume of milk, at 42 to 45 kg of milk per day, as compared to the usual 35 to 38kg per day. The cows also have a lower risk of developing mastitis.